On the afternoon of August 29th, 2022 - cricket fans scrolling through Instagram would have come across a post from an Indian cricketer that started off with a rather choicy set of words - "Goodbyes are never easy".
It's safe to say that those are often quotidian words to announce a retirement, but for seasoned pacer Varun Aaron, it was a prelude to a brand new chapter in his career.
About 14 years ago, Aaron ran in for the first time to bowl his thunderbolts at Ranchi for Jharkhand, and through the post, he was bringing down curtains to an 18-year long stint at the state team filled with ups and downs - on both cricketing and personal fronts.
"I took the NOC (No objection certificate) almost two weeks ago, but I was sitting on it thinking when I should announce it on social media. It was still sinking in, I've been part of Jharkhand for 18 years, so more than anything there are so many teammates, friends, groundsmen, housekeeping, office staff who are so close to me, I was feeling bad," Varun Aaron told Sportskeeda in an exclusive chat.
"I was feeling sad to leave a big part of what I was involved in for so many years. I'm going to join camp end of this week with Baroda, so I felt it was a good time to let it out of my system."
For those in oblivion, Aaron will be switching loyalities and playing for Baroda from the upcoming domestic season, joining a star-studded team which will also feature the sibling duo of Hardik and Krunal Pandya.
In modern times, long social media posts generally take some level of planning and structuring - two aspects which took a grand total of 600 seconds in Aaron's case - since every word came right from his heart.
"If I think about stuff, I can't frame anything. It was like a 10-minute thought, I'm not somebody who thinks a lot, so whatever comes to me first I do. It was an impulsive post, suddenly I felt like putting it out, so whatever was in my heart poured out in the post."
"The whole package is very exciting, I can challenge myself" - Varun Aaron on playing for Baroda
Aaron's CV boasts of him featuring in nine Test matches and an equal number of ODIs for India, but the workhorse in him is defined by the 63 First-Class, 73 List-A and 89 T20 matches he's played so far.
With 282 wickets across the FC and List-A formats, there's no semblence of doubt about how instrumental Aaron has been in Jharkand's success over the past few years.
The workhorse nature and an express pacer, still capable of cranking up the pace, is what Baroda have signed up for by roping in the services of Aaron for the 2022-23 season and beyond.
"Baroda have been looking for a fast bowler for a couple of years. They need a pacer who can add value to the team and help them win a trophy, and I hope to be that player. My overwhelming loyalty for Jharkhand stopped me from switching teams, but now with the administration changes in the state, I felt it's the right time to move."
Aaron also shed some light on how bowling at Baroda's Moti Bagh Stadium would suit him a lot more than plying his trade in Ranchi, while also expressing delight at the strength of Baroda's squad for the upcoming season.
"Moti Bagh's surface excites me as well, it's much better to bowl there than in Ranchi. The difference in playing factors also played a role in making this decision. Plus, (Ambati) Rayudu will be leading the side, we've got the Pandya brothers and Dav Whatmore will be coaching the side so the overall package is very exciting, I'll have the option of challenging myself by going into a new culture. Expectations change day in and day out, sometimes you need a change of scene to go where you want in life."
Now that Aaron's stepping into a new chapter of his career, challenges will be multi-fold, a feature of human life which the pacer has adapted to like a duck to water. There have been times when life has been cruel to him, either by denying him chances or pulling him out of action for multiple weeks owing to an injury.
Even in times of peril, Aaron's swatted away all the negative vibes and pushed his boundaries beyond the norm, and in the process, learnt what it takes to fight for what one deserves in life.
"I love to bowl fast, there's no two ways about it. I wouldn't play cricket if I bowled slow, it doesn't give me any sort of motivation. It's about challenging my boundaries everyday, because not everybody in the Indian circuit has bowled fast continuously for 15 years. Not many in world cricket who have had 8 stress fractures and still bowl 145+ kph. It's breaking my own boundaries, challenging myself and of course, there's always the motivation to play for India."
"I think anything is possible in this game, there are so many examples of people who have made the team from being in various situations. I'm playing as hard as I can with the best people I can, let's see where it takes me."
As for catching up with his new teammates at Baroda, Aaron's not had an opportunity yet to speak with Hardik Pandya, who's now the talk of the town after his scintillating all-round performance in the Asia Cup 2022 against Pakistan.
Interestingly though, Aaron was a part of the IPL 2022 title-winning Gujarat Titans setup, and the pacer's got more than just a good idea of what Pandya brings to the table - and he's pretty damn excited about what the future holds for the Baroda team.
November 2015 might have been the last time that Aaron donned the Indian cricket team jersey and walked out to a vociferous reception, but he's never allowed frustration to seep in and infect his harbored dreams of making a national team comeback.
With the IPL producing many a talent on the pace bowling front, Aaron's keen to use the competition as a means to improve with time - and ultimately walk out wearing the India jersey one fine day.
"Obviously when others are getting picked for the country, it plays on my mind, I am not going to deny that. That said, you can only give everything you have in you. There have been times when I almost made it back in 2018, but an injury hampered that."
"I feel the last 7 years have been a very constructive period as a cricketer, and it's shown me different sides of life - observing how it is to be in the team, not be picked etc. It helps you work with any adversity in life and the last 7 years have helped me develop my game. I'm looking to exhibit that in the coming season and do brilliant things for Baroda."
As Aaron walks away from what's been a storied journey with the Jharkhand cricket team, he enters a brand new Baroda setup with the attitude of a kid in a candy shop. When it's game time though, expect Aaron to be nothing short of the impact that a bull has in a China shop and do what he knows to do best - bowl FAST.